Whoever said technology simplifies life was flat out wrong. The digital age has made certain things easier for sure, but overall it seems that being more connected has actually had the opposite effect; making us all a little bit more disconnected.
And when it comes to buyer and supplier relationships in the hospitality sector the old rules don’t event apply. Even some of the newest rules don’t count anymore as newer digital methods of communicating are already passé. Keeping up with the new rules seems to be an every evolving challenge.
After all it’s so hard to figure out how a customer prefers to be communicated with and how often they want interaction. And getting it wrong can make creating a fruitful relationship challenging.
BITAC is of course the industry leading one-on-one meetings and relationship building event. Taking place on the Las Vegas Strip at The Mirage this week, BITAC attendees are the ultimate group of insiders and decision makers representing leading and forward thinking companies. And they’re all here to come together at BITAC to problem solve, network, sign deals and exchange ideas to move forward the quality of experiences for hotel guests, while adding profits to the bottom line. There’s even time to cut loose, be social and network in a luxurious and relaxed environment.
At this year’s debut BITAC F&B West, our attendees made it clear that the pathway to a successful buyer-supplier relationship is one that has no set formula, but changes from person to person. People want to be communicated with in many different ways. But it is not just the method in which you communicate such as phone or email, but the message being delivered.
“The biggest evolution I have seen is the customer is much more aware of his surroundings. They are pressed for time more than ever before so [suppliers] must provide relevance. It’s is our role to illustrate the bigger picture relating to the industry & passing that along to our clientele,” said Nick Bellini, VP Business Development, Sambonet/ Rosnethal, a company offering a complete range of porcelain and metalware for tabletop and buffet.
To stay relevant Barbara Kane, Assistant VP Industry Relations with Ecolab, a company focusing on water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that provide and protect clean water, safe food, abundant energy and healthy environments, said its critical for suppliers to be experts in hospitality trends.
“We do a mix of driving and following trends to make our products relevant to buyers. So we know that listening to the customer while also innovating is key. It is really is what differentiates you from your competitors. So we Invested more during the recession and used that time for development of products and are ready with relevant products lodging executives are looking for,” said Kane.
Kane said that too many people do a lot of talking but not a lot of listening. She believes that to be most effective in selling products you need to know what keeps buyers up at night and then interpret their needs. It’s a lot of reading between the lines to understand what their needs are, but makes for a more successful strategy.
Meanwhile Deanna Kay, President of Torn Ranch, a provider of food amenities, minibar products, bulk mixes and turndown offerings, said effective relationships are created by going beyond listening or asking questions. “We try to think ahead of time what is affecting our customers in the industry, then ask the right questions. Plus, after the sale is as important to get feedback to gauge success and keep the relationship successful,” said Kay.
And while our experts acknowledge people rely on email, they also say it is no longer effective as it used to be. People get too many, are overworked and it’s too easy to simply ignore them. So it seems that it’s time to look at the past to see what will drive future success.
“I disagree that emails are the best way to communicate,” said Bellini. “Supplier emails can get lost in the mix of less relevant ones. Importance of products is better presented on site in person. Also we are finding the telephone is the best way to communicate.”
Kane agrees. “I am not a fan of email, it is much more effective to meet face to face company. And people are also more to talk on the phone first thing in morning so I make sure to communicate that was as much as possible,” said Kane.
Here is what BITAC attendees thought on this topic with answers created utilizing our advanced real-time polling system that allows us to get the facts about the most critical business issues in real time.
Do you feel suppliers are continuing to innovate at a strong pace?
Absolutely - 30.1%
Somewhat - 57.8%
I am not sure - 6.0%
They could do a better job - 6.0%
How often do you communicate with your buyer/supplier counterpart when not currently engaged in a job?
Weekly - 6.0%
Every other week - 19.0%
Monthly - 45.2%
Rarely - 26.2%
We only speak during the active sales process - 3.6%
Do you feel suppliers are effective at maximizing use of their product on the hotel level? i.e. staff training of product, etc.
Absolutely - 8.2%
Somewhat - 30.1%
I am not sure - 20.5%
They could do a better job - 39.7%
They are never involved once contract is signed - 1.4%